Last week, Scott Anthony, managing director of Innosight Ventures, applied the wisdom of Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein to explain measurement. Espstein implied that some people focus too much on baseball.
"When you're putting together a winning team, that honestly doesn't matter," said Epstein in reference to J.D. Drew's relatively low number of runs batted. "When you have a player who takes a ton of walks, who doesn't put the ball in play at an above average rate, and is a certain type of hitter, he's not going to drive in a lot of runs. Runs scored, you couldn't be more wrong. If you look at a rate basis, J.D. scores a ton of runs."
Anthony goes on to tie in business management to his article at Harvard Business Publishing, saying that business managers can learn a lot from how baseball general managers build and manage their talent portfolio. How do you really know if you are focusing on the right metrics?
Communication works much the same way. Sure, I frequently write about the importance of communication measurement. It's important. Unmeasured communication is non-communication.
However, that is not to say that all measures have to dictate the course of communication, especially with social media where people have a propensity to add too much weight to the wrong metrics. For example, I know one company that wanted to drop its Twitter account and focus on Facebook based upon the number of members alone.
In this particular situation, it turned out that the positive impact of their communication was reliant on a certain percentage of people who were engaged both on Facebook and on Twitter. Specifically, those who were engaged on both networks tended to be evangelists who considered the Twitter account their personal connection whereas they viewed Facebook as a group for everyone. Contrary, the Facebook group consisted of participants, advocates, and evangelists.
Much like J.D. Drew's relatively low number of runs batted, separating the network into mere count columns does not always lead to the right conclusions. And in this regard, Anthony's observations for innovation might apply to communication. It would require a robust categorization scheme for classifying the type of communication, the reach of the communication, the engagement level of the audiences, and market circumstances (especially a competitive analysis).
Whereas Anthony said better metrics give Epstein a competitive advantage over his rivals, I might say that a better interpretation of metrics will often deliver a competitive advantage. It also ensures Advertising Rule 9 receives due diligence.